What Does an Editor Do?

Last week, I happened upon a post on The Open Notebook blog that included one of my favorite descriptions of how editors work--originally composed by Thomas Kunkel and included in his book Genius in Disguise, a biography of the legendary New Yorker editor Harold Ross:

“In the narrowest sense, editors lay twitchy hands on someone else’s work, fixing it, patching it, polishing it, and generally trying to keep it upright. In the broadest sense, however, they set the agenda, standards, and tone for a publication. They hire and fire; they pick stories, and the writers to go with them. They must have enough ego to confidently steer talented people, but the will to subordinate it. They must assuage prima donnas, compel laggards, and sober up drunks. Equal parts shaman and showman, they must have an unwavering vision for their publication, convey it to a staff, and then sell it to the great yawning public. For these reasons and many others, editing a magazine is not a job suited to the faint or uncertain, and it is enormously difficult to do well.”

I wouldn't call myself a shaman. But I've definitely dealt with prima donnas and laggards in the course of my content career. And if you swap out "magazine" and "publication" for brand and "story" for content, doesn't that sound a lot like what content strategists and brand managers do every single day?

Lights, Camera, Action?

Yikes. I just discovered this YouTube video of me--shot last summer by folks from the U of M School of Journalism and Mass Communication--describing my job as editor in chief of Minnesota Monthly. I think it turned out great--but it still makes me wince to see myself onscreen....

High Energy Publisher: Red Bull

"Red Bull is a publishing empire that also happens to sell a beverage." That's a little overstated, of course. Red Bull is a far cry from a publishing empire. But the company's effort to position the brand as the vital juice to fuel any extreme accomplishment is dead-on. Modern brands need to see the world through consumers' eyes and widen the scope of their thinking if they want to lure customers to their products. No customer ever muses, If only I had a portable high-energy beverage. But for athletes intent on accomplishing something amazing and extreme, the impulse to quench one's thirst can't be far behind. And because Red Bull has managed to associate itself with the kind of content, ideas, and activities that such folks love, it's almost certain those daredevils will reach for a Red Bull to amp up.

Tangled in Tech

"You need to be careful that, in your passion to explore and understand corporate marketing, you do not get all tangled up in the technology at the expense of understanding the root human processes that make the technology usable and useful. If the processes you are nurturing would work in a Palaeolithic society, you can assume they would work extremely well in a tech-savvy one."

Godfrey Parkin, author of Digital Marketing: Strategies for Online Success